Germany suspects airport gunman was Islamist

3rd March 2011, Comments 0 comments

German investigators said Thursday they suspected a Kosovan man arrested for the fatal shooting of two US airmen on their bus at Frankfurt airport is an Islamist.

"In view of the circumstances, there is a suspicion that this was an act with Islamist motivation," said federal prosecutors, who in Germany are responsible for "terrorism" cases and who have taken over the probe.

The 21-year-old man from the Muslim-majority territory in southeastern Europe cried "Allahu Akhbar" ("God is Greatest"), reports quoted witnesses as saying, before opening fire at one of Europe's busiest airports on Wednesday.

The incident also left two US airmen seriously injured. A "saddened and outraged" US President Barack Obama said Washington would "spare no effort in learning how this outrageous act took place."

Investigators were studying a page on social networking website Facebook believed to be the suspects's, on which he makes no secret of his extremist tendencies, Spiegel magazine's online edition said.

On the page he is a "fan" of several Islamic websites, has a link to a jihadi war song and had commented "this stupid kuffar ('unbeliever')" on a posting, Spiegel said.

The Bild daily reported that police combed the suspect's flat in a grubby tower block in the outskirts of Frankfurt after the attack, removing sacks of evidence. Commandos also raided his parents' house.

Reports named the suspect as Arid U, with a police source in Pristina saying he was from the town of Mitrovica in the north of Kosovo, and that he was not on record as having fallen foul of the law before.

Germany's interior minister said however that he saw no reason to boost police presence around the country, which suggests that investigators do not believe he was part of a wider "terror cell" about to carry out other attacks.

The incident came a month after German authorities had announced that additional security measures imposed late last year in response to indications of an imminent "terrorist" attack were set to be gradually scaled back.

The US military has a number of major bases near Frankfurt, including Ramstein where the bus was headed, which are used as hubs for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Germany opposed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq but has more than 5,000 troops in Afghanistan. It has never suffered an attack by Islamic extremists but a number of suspected bomb plots have been uncovered.

The September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States were planned in part in the German port city of Hamburg by an Al-Qaeda cell led by Mohammed Atta, the hijacker of the first plane to strike New York's World Trade Center.

In March 2010 a German court jailed four Islamic militants who dreamed of "mounting a second September 11" for a plot thwarted in 2007 to attack US soldiers and civilians in Germany.

The four included two German converts to Islam, a Turkish citizen and a German of Turkish origin.

"The German government will do all it can to investigate what happened," Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin as she expressed her condolences.

Kosovo's government condemned what it called a "horrible" attack "against civilised values and against the traditions of the people of Kosovo."

Kosovo's newspapers on Thursday lamented the damage done to the territory's image.

Germany Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle spoke by phone with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to express his condolences and to promise "a swift and thorough enquiry," Berlin said.

© 2011 AFP

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